Following a rather neutral start to the World Cup, things have finally got interesting when unfancied Switzerland recorded a shock victory over the dazzling but toothless Spaniards.
Other traditional European giants also faltered as the usually effective Germans lost out to an air-tight Serbian defence while England were frustrated to a stalemate by lowly Algeria. France were their shockingly disastrous selves after being embarrassed 2-0 by a plucky Mexican side.
Is this the beginning of the end of European domination? Some may argue that we shouldn’t be reading too much into a couple of shock results and that soon the balance will be restored. But what if the little teams are now capable of balancing the big ones?
Even if this was the case, it is still quite evident that the underdogs are still incapable of matching the attacking fluidity of Spain or the ruthless efficiency of the Germans. For the likes of Switzerland and Algeria to have any hopes of achieving priceless points in the World Cup, we’ve seen them take on a uniformed approach to every game: “parking the bus.”
Many teams have so far applied Mourinho-esque tactics of defending with ten men in the box with the hopes of scoring just one counter-attack goal against the noble teams who travelled all the way to South Africa to actually play some football. As a result, we’ve seen too many frustrating low scoring games, confirming the unjust prejudices that football is a slow and boring sport.
As much as we’d all love to see the small teams come out of their box, I can’t blame them for not doing so. The stakes are just too high and they just don’t know any better. Yet. Football is a continually evolving sport so perhaps one day even Algeria can play like Brazil.
So the onus is on the big teams to find faults in the proverbial bus. Scoring against ten defenders is a tough task but it sure as hell is not impossible. One of the best club teams in the world, Barcelona, are capable of destroying sturdy defences on a weekly basis, so why can’t Spain? After all, six Barcelona players started for Spain against Switzerland.
The key to unlocking stubborn defences is to be stubborn with your own approach. It’s easy to get frustrated and lose your cool when playing in such a situation. As a result, passes go wildly astray, shots are over hit, and game plans are thrown out the window. Spain’s coach Vicente del Bosque said Spain’s failure to win was down to their hastiness in the second half, which led to an imprecision in their game. Perhaps only with a steady, patient approach could Mourinho’s spawns be defeated.
Brazil showed that this is possible by beating an ultra-defensive North Korea 2-1. The Brazilians were faithful to their positive approach and eventually found gaps in the North Korean defence. What’s more, they never rushed themselves to find the elusive commodity that is a goal in the 2010 World Cup, knowing that with their attacking prowess they eventually will.
Granted, Brazil only scored two against the virtually unknown North Koreans. But this is a good sign for things to come. The best teams in the world will figure out ways to entertain us once more. The Luis Fabianos and the David Villas have only been lightly knocking on the doors of anti-football, and it’s only a matter of time before they barge in and bring the house down.